Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Time for some Sole-Searching

Sole is a group of flatfish from European coastal waters that can be somewhat hard to locate here in the US. Lucky for me, I have a great fishmonger that stocks it regularly and especially during lent. Lent is a great time to be purchasing fish, as grocers overstock and sell them at almost rock bottom prices. When looking for sole, seek out Dover sole. Dover sole is the most esteemed of the sole family, with a delicate sweet flavor and thin yet firm fillets that hold together very well during cooking. According to Fish Market: A Cookbook for Selecting and Preparing Seafood, by Kathy Hunt, the ancient Romans loved this delicate oval flatfish and called it "solea jovi," meaning "Jupiter's sandal," referring to the king of their gods, Jupiter. Sole is a reference to the Old English term sole or solu, meaning shoe, sandal, or sole. In addition, Dover sole were named after Dover, England, because it was the fishing port that landed the most sole in the 19th century.

This recipe for "Sole with Spinach (Sole aux Epinards)" from My French Kitchen, by Joanne Harris and Fran Warde, is simplicity at its best. The slight bitterness of the wilted greens contrasts nicely to the buttery sweetness of the sole and the creamy shallot sauce is to die for! Not only is this recipe fast and easy, it is perfect for a simple yet elegant multi-course menu. I would start the meal with a small starter, like a small bowl or teacup of Spring Pea Soup or Carrot and Cumin Soup, or a tiny plate of Stuffed Mushroom Caps. I would then dazzle my guests with this recipe and a crusty baguette. For dessert, a beautiful small bowl of Bouchon Strawberry Sorbet or Ginger, Lemon, and Mint Granita will leave you and your guests extremely gratified! Now it's time for you to do some sole-searching!

Sole with Spinach (Sole aux Epinards)

Serves 4-6


8 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 shallots, diced
Drizzle of olive oil
12 sole fillets (Sizes may vary, so approximately 1 1/2 pounds for 4 people and 2 1/4 pounds for 6 people should suffice.)
2 pounds spinach, trimmed and washed
1/3 cup heavy cream
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Lemon juice, to serve


Heat the broiler. Lightly oil the broiler rack and put it in the broiler for a few minutes to heat.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the butter in a medium saucepan, add the shallots, and cook gently for 10 minutes over low heat. Do not allow them to color.

Twist the sole fillets and place them on the heated broiler rack - you should hear them sizzle as they touch it. Broil for 4 to 5 minutes, them remove them. Turn the broiler off.

Place the spinach in a large saucepan with 3 tablespoons of water and cook about 3 minutes, stirring frequently. The spinach should soften and warm but retain its shape and texture. (If it wilts more, that's okay.) Put the spinach in a lightly buttered baking dish or oven safe platter and arrange the sole fillets on top. Place in the turned-off broiler to keep warm. 

Add the cream, salt, and pepper to the shallots and bring to a simmer. Cut the remaining 7 tablespoons of butter into small pieces and whisk a few pieces at a time into the simmering cream. When all the butter is added you should have a glossy sauce. Pour the sauce over the spinach and sole and finish with a squeeze of lemon. Serve immediately!

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